cover image Monster Academy

Monster Academy

Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illus. by John McKinley. Blue Sky, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-338-09881-5

The mother-daughter authors (You Nest Here with Me) introduce a class of monsters taught by a mummy cursed to speak only in verse. Mayhem erupts with the arrival of a new classmate, Tornado Jo, a fuzzy, round being that has a one-word vocabulary: “No!” The lesson of the day is counting lost teeth, and a young vampire is dismayed that he still has both of his fangs, a dilemma that continues as Tornado Jo upends the classroom. The story’s underlying message of accepting and embracing differences surfaces when Jo is revealed to be a much-feared human in costume—“ ‘I get it!’ says Vic. ‘We’re scary, but so is she!’ ” McKinley (the Ready, Freddy! series) doesn’t stint on goofy details: there’s a frog-like female with hissing snakes for hair; a bulbous, polka-dotted creature with corkscrew horns; and a boy whose face is dominated by a single oversized eye. Though riotous pictures provide chuckles, the narrative’s alternating verse and prose makes for a rocky rhythm, and the jumbled story ultimately feels clunky. Ages 4–8. [em](Aug.) [/em]